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Judge denies request for temporary injunction in mask mandate case

(FILE)
(FILE)(WWNY)
Published: Oct. 12, 2020 at 10:04 AM CDT
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POLK COUNTY, Wis. (WBAY) - A circuit court judge has denied a request to temporarily block the Wisconsin governor’s statewide emergency order that requires people to wear masks at public places.

On Monday, St. Croix County Circuit Court Judge R. Michael Waterman denied a motion for a temporary injunction. Hon. Waterman says the plaintiffs in the case “don’t ask to preserve status quo; they ask to change it.”

“Today’s ruling is a victory in our fight against COVID-19 and our efforts to keep the people of Wisconsin safe and healthy during this unprecedented crisis,” said Gov. Tony Evers. “As the number of COVID-19 cases in Wisconsin reached 150,000 yesterday, we will continue doing everything we can to prevent the spread of this virus. We ask Wisconsinites to please stay home as much as possible, limit travel and going to public gatherings, and wear a mask whenever out and about.”

The Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty has filed suit on behalf of private citizens Derek Lindoo, John Kraft and Brandon Widiker. The lawsuit challenges Gov. Tony Evers' authority to issue Executive Order 90. They believe the governor exceeded his authority by declaring public health emergencies on three separate occasions related to COVID-19.

WILL announced Monday that hit plans to appeal the decision.

“It is with regret that the Judge held that the Governor of the State of Wisconsin can rule the state by decree for an unlimited amount of time with the acquiescence of the legislature,” says WILL President Rick Esenberg. “We look forward to making an appeal on this critical constitutional matter.”

The plaintiffs asked the court to issue a temporary injunction on the mask order while their case goes through the court system. Hon. Waterman says in his decision that “temporary injunctions are not issued lightly.”

“The plaintiffs' right to relief is not clear,” Waterman writes. “Nothing in the statute prohibits the governor from declaring successive states of emergency.”

Waterman says language in state statute gives the governor “broad discretion to act whenever conditions in the state constitute a public health emergency.”

The governor is given a 60-day limit on executive orders. When that limit is up, the governor can issue another executive order.

The judge says it would be up to the legislature to take action.

“If the legislature is unconvinced that a state of emergency does exist, the legislature has the ultimate power to terminate it.”

“Today’s ruling is the right one,” said Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul. “Wisconsin currently faces one of the worst COVID-19 outbreaks in the nation, and the mask requirement is a critical protection against the ongoing danger that the coronavirus poses to Wisconsinites' health. I encourage legislative Republicans to stop supporting this attack on the mask requirement and instead to work with Governor Evers to adopt statewide policies that will allow us to more effectively to fight the virus and keep Wisconsinites safe.”

On Sept. 22, Gov. Evers extended the mask order until Nov. 21.

The lawsuit against the governor is expected to go to the Wisconsin Supreme Court.

Wisconsin is averaging more than 2,000 new COVID-19 cases per day. State numbers show a percent positive seven-day average at 18.6%. The Wisconsin Hospital Association lists 889 COVID-19 patients hospitalized with 235 of them in the ICU.

Hon. Waterman was appointed to the bench by former Republican Gov. Scott Walker.

Copyright 2020 WBAY. All rights reserved.

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